The debut of the new Jeep Gladiator is one of the highlights of the 2018 LA Auto Show and is an entirely new offering for today’s Jeep lineup.
Jeep considers this a mid-sized pickup and given that it’s based on the latest generation Wrangler, it has formidable off road capabilities combined with increased hauling and towing capacities than the Wrangler it’s based on.
Ralph Gilles, Head of Design at FCA, told Wheels.ca, “Setting out to do a midsize truck, and truck is the key term, and obviously we know what we’re doing with trucks and we wanted people to be able to check all the boxes and not have any reason not to consider this as not only a mid-sized truck, but an amazing off road adventure machine.”
If Jeep knows anything, it’s how to design vehicles for their very loyal and vocal owners. Gilles said, “We know styling is important to our customers, capability is obviously number one, but it had to just look good. Mark Allen, who is the head of the (Jeep) studio, is obsessed with stance and where those (rear) wheels are on the vehicle, so we had to work with engineering and get the vehicle to look good from all views.”
Gladiator is indeed a riff on the latest Wrangler, but it’s significantly different and it’s best to think of it as a Jeep truck, rather than a Wrangler with a pickup bed. Mark Allen said, “Although there is some Wrangler heritage to it, it’s a different chassis, a unique rear suspension, the towing number is 7,650 (pounds), 1,600-pound payload. The box is five feet inside, six-and-a-half when you put the tailgate down.”
Like Gilles, Allen lives and breathes Jeep, and does a bit of off-roading in his spare time. As a Jeep owner and enthusiast, he has a unique perspective on Gladiator. Allen told Wheels.ca, “What surprises people is that it’s fully open like a Jeep. I can pull the doors off, I can pull the roof off, there’s a soft top and a hard top and all of the pieces come off.”
Like Wrangler, Gladiator is a body-on-frame design with a four-door crew cab. Its wheelbase is 49 centimetres longer than the Wrangler Unlimited four-door. The five foot bed permits various tie down options, has a 115V power outlet, convenient lighting, and the tailgate is damped.
CommandTrak and RockTrak four wheel drive systems, front and rear lockers, rear limited slip differential, and a front sway bar disconnect are available for Gladiator, giving it legitimate off road chops.
Engines are the familiar Pentastar 3.6-litre V6 producing 285 horsepower and 260 pounds-feet of torque, as well as a new 3.0-litre diesel V6 that makes 260 horsepower and an earth-moving 442 pounds-feet of torque that will arrive in 2020.
Customers can specify either an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual with Pentastar V6, while the diesel will be automatic only. Unlike Wrangler, no four-cylinder engine option will be available.
Gladiator can be had with one soft top or two hardtop options, making it uniquely an open-air pickup truck. The interior is based around the Wrangler’s modern design and will even satisfy tech geeks with the superb uConnect infotainment system, with either 7.4- or 8-inch screens.
Gladiator will be available in Sport, Sport S, Overland, Rubicon trim levels and deliveries begin in the second quarter of 2019. Jeep has yet to announce pricing for Gladiator, but expect to pay a small premium over the Wrangler.
Although Jeep has a long history with pickups, Gladiator is one of the most true-to-form vehicles available today and will satisfy drivers who need pickup truck capability as well as legendary off-road prowess.
Allen’s Gladiator will be one of the first off the Toledo, Ohio production line and he told Wheels.ca, “When I get mine, I’m going to use it every day. I’ve got a manual transmission Rubicon on order. The neat thing about this truck is that you can drive it every day and you can go wheeling with it at a moment’s notice. I’m attracted to just to the style and the appearance of the vehicle, but I do need a pickup truck and this is going to fit my lifestyle.”
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